Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Improvements Needed in Agility Organizations

"People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy" - Oliver Goldsmith

It's that time again, another Dog Agility Blog Action Day! To read all the blogs on today's subject, Improving Dog Agility Organizations,  click here.

As my quote above suggests, it's hard to change when you have no other ideas but your own as examples. So I'm here to throw out a few ideas.

I run both AKC & NADAC agility. Although both are considered "dog agility," the venues could not be farther apart in terms of ideas & philosophy. But I do think there are things that each do better than the other, and maybe they could use each other as examples of things to change?  (see, I'm coming back around to that quote again!)

What AKC could learn from NADAC:
  • Jump Heights... The bane of all corgi owners...
    • First of all, I don't expect AKC to ever actually change their jump height cut offs. I don't think a dog should jump over the height of their withers, but neither organization agrees with me there...
    • But I do think AKC could do some sort of "breed exemption" for heights like NADAC does. Basically any short legged, deep chested breed gets an exemption to jump 4" lower. This does create a slippery slope though... Just what breeds "deserve" exemptions? NADAC gives American Staffordshire Terriers an exemption...
    • They could incorporate NADAC's Veteran Dog / Veteran Handler / Junior Handler height exemptions. I am a huge fan of lower heights for older dogs!
  • Price breaks for Junior Handlers. If kids are the future of the dog sports, why not make it easier on them & their parents to get involved? AKC already asks for Junior Handler numbers if you are under 18, so why not pair that number with a separate price?
  • Take the slats off the contact equipment! I think NADAC has proved this over & over again, that as long as the equipment is rubberized, the slats provide nothing but a safety hazard! Stubbed toes, torn toenails, tripping...

What NADAC could learn from AKC:
  • Less changes... If you've done NADAC at all, you know that there are always new rules, new equipment, new procedures.... And it's not just a judge's different interpretation of said rules, but these things are coming from the top down. I just found out that your leash has to be resting on the ground before your dog can leave the start line. I can't even name all the changes that have happened since I started in NADAC about 6 years ago. There has been less than 5 in AKC in that time period.
  • Forget all the extra bobbles / plaques / certificates that you send out for awards. Why? Because you never actually receive them! (Did that sound a tad bitter? Yes, I'm still waiting for things I won 5 years ago...)  I understand these things are expensive, that's why no other organizations promise them! I like the programs & awards, but just don't promise a physical reward for earning them. Or let the clubs offer to print your certificate or give you a ribbon. Keep it simple.
  • I have quite a few more, but criticism is not necessarily accepted well in this organization... Hey, that could be another thing they could learn from AKC!  People bash AKC all the time & they just ignore it  :)

I do have one thing that I would like to see both organizations improve: the welcoming of new competitors. I would like to see some sort of mentoring program started for the truly novice.

 It could be as simple as experienced competitors volunteering to wear a badge or name tag at trials to identify themselves as willing to help answer questions & guide newbies in the right direction. Novices can look for the badges & be less nervous about asking for help. It only takes a second. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club does this at our Nationals. Love it!

I just hate to see novices wandering around, looking for a friendly face. At the least, give them a friendly smile, some words of encouragement, a tip, a compliment, SOMETHING! Chances are they have been watching you & admiring your handling, dog, shoes, etc. If they do approach you, BE NICE!  Oops, seems I got off on another tangent...  :)

Anyway, please visit some of the other blogs participating in the Action Day!  Here are just a few of my favorites so far:

The Global Warmers: ...and the Three Bears
Agility Addict: Making our sport better one organization at a time, two words at a time...
The Dogs Are Really In Charge: Improving Our Agility Organizations
Spring Forth Dog Blog: Improving Agility Organizations: Thoughts on Participation


  1. LOVE your idea of someone wearing an "Ask ME!" badge. I think that is brilliant. I sure wish I had had someone like that at my first few trials. I may steal your idea and share with my local club if its okay with you--really the clubs are the ones that could actually institute this idea and make it happen.

    Great post!

    1. Definitely ok to share the idea! I think it is something that clubs would have to do anyway, not necessarily the big organizations.

    2. At our morning briefings for NADAC trials, they ask that the experienced competitors raise their hands. That way the new people have someone to ask questions of and it is voluntary on the part of the "old hands".

  2. Nice post, with much thought put into it. Love your Brews Brothers!

  3. Excellent post and great suggestions! I love the idea of an novice agility mentor...all dog sport organizations and venues could use that suggestion! I like how you weighed how both organizations could learn from each other...very well thought out!

  4. aww thanks so much for the shout out!
    and excellent post yourself!

  5. Great post, girl! I agree with you. CPE is a lot like NADAC in respect of jump heights (though they don't have breed exemptions, just veterans). And they seem to accept the novices and offer a helping hand.

  6. "But I do think AKC could do some sort of "breed exemption" for heights like NADAC does. Basically any short legged, deep chested breed gets an exemption to jump 4" lower. This does create a slippery slope though... Just what breeds "deserve" exemptions? NADAC gives American Staffordshire Terriers an exemption..."

    Make it a measuring standard, and not by breed. If the proportions of the dog match or exceed a certain ratio, that dog jumps lower. Then the dogs that don't need the exemption won't be out-competing those that do.

    Yes, it's another hiccup in the start-up to get your dog on the line that first day, but I think if we are doing this for dogs, that's it's well worth that time and effort.